Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for September 4th, 2007

At last! Guidelines for becoming a bookworm

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I didn’t have this kind of help when I was a boy—I had to work it all out for myself. But now you have better guidance:

If reading more books is a goal of yours, there are some easy and simple things you can do to encourage a life-long reading habit. Follow these tips, and you’ll soon have a list of books you’ve read that goes on forever.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

The scientific consensus on global warming

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From the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the preeminent scientific organization in the US. Note that this article is not based on a mere count of articles, but rather looks at statements from various scientific organizations.

Science 3 December 2004:
Vol. 306. no. 5702, p. 1686
DOI: 10.1126/science.1103618

BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER:
The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

Naomi Oreskes*

Policy-makers and the media, particularly in the United States, frequently assert that climate science is highly uncertain. Some have used this as an argument against adopting strong measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, while discussing a major U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on the risks of climate change, then-EPA administrator Christine Whitman argued, “As [the report] went through review, there was less consensus on the science and conclusions on climate change” (1). Some corporations whose revenues might be adversely affected by controls on carbon dioxide emissions have also alleged major uncertainties in the science (2). Such statements suggest that there might be substantive disagreement in the scientific community about the reality of anthropogenic climate change. This is not the case.

The scientific consensus is clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, IPCC’s purpose is to evaluate the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action, primarily on the basis of peer-reviewed and published scientific literature (3). In its most recent assessment, IPCC states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities: “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy. … [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations” [p. 21 in (4)].

IPCC is not alone in its conclusions. In recent years, all major scientific bodies in the United States whose members’ expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements. For example, the National Academy of Sciences report, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, begins: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise” [p. 1 in (5)]. The report explicitly asks whether the IPCC assessment is a fair summary of professional scientific thinking, and answers yes: “The IPCC’s conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue” [p. 3 in (5)].

Others agree. The American Meteorological Society (6), the American Geophysical Union (7), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling (8).

The drafting of such reports and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies’ members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change” (9).

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

Admittedly, authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.

This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the public statements of their professional societies. Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.

The scientific consensus might, of course, be wrong. If the history of science teaches anything, it is humility, and no one can be faulted for failing to act on what is not known. But our grandchildren will surely blame us if they find that we understood the reality of anthropogenic climate change and failed to do anything about it.

Many details about climate interactions are not well understood, and there are ample grounds for continued research to provide a better basis for understanding climate dynamics. The question of what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear. It is time for the rest of us to listen.

References and Notes

  1. A. C. Revkin, K. Q. Seelye, New York Times, 19 June 2003, A1.
  2. S. van den Hove, M. Le Menestrel, H.-C. de Bettignies, Climate Policy 2 (1), 3 (2003).
  3. See www.ipcc.ch/about/about.htm.
  4. J. J. McCarthy et al., Eds., Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2001).
  5. National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Science of Climate Change, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2001).
  6. American Meteorological Society, Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 84, 508 (2003).
  7. American Geophysical Union, Eos 84 (51), 574 (2003).
  8. See www.ourplanet.com/aaas/pages/atmos02.html.
  9. The first year for which the database consistently published abstracts was 1993. Some abstracts were deleted from our analysis because, although the authors had put “climate change” in their key words, the paper was not about climate change.
  10. This essay is excerpted from the 2004 George Sarton Memorial Lecture, “Consensus in science: How do we know we’re not wrong,” presented at the AAAS meeting on 13 February 2004. I am grateful to AAAS and the History of Science Society for their support of this lectureship; to my research assistants S. Luis and G. Law; and to D. C. Agnew, K. Belitz, J. R. Fleming, M. T. Greene, H. Leifert, and R. C. J. Somerville for helpful discussions.

UPDATE: An interesting chart:

blog_climate_change_1916_2016_0

Global warming slowed a while, due to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, which provided a shield against solar warming—a temporary shield, unfortunatley. Details here.

UPDATE: Responses to the most common skeptical arguments against global warming is a useful compendium, worth browsing.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 7:51 pm

The mauling of Gore

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We on the liberal side have often bemoaned the treatment that Al Gore received at the hands of the supposedly “liberal” press, notably the NY Times and the Washington Post, during his campaign for president. Now there’s a good article on that, which begins:

As he was running for president, Al Gore said he’d invented the Internet; announced that he had personally discovered Love Canal, the most infamous toxic-waste site in the country; and bragged that he and Tipper had been the sole inspiration for the golden couple in Erich Segal’s best-selling novel Love Story (made into a hit movie with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal). He also invented the dog, joked David Letterman, and gave mankind fire.

Could such an obviously intelligent man have been so megalomaniacal and self-deluded to have actually said such things? Well, that’s what the news media told us, anyway. And on top of his supposed pomposity and elitism, he was a calculating dork: unable to get dressed in the morning without the advice of a prominent feminist (Naomi Wolf).

Today, by contrast, Gore is “the Goreacle,” the elder statesman of global activism, and something of a media darling. He is the Bono of the environment, the Cassandra of Iraq, the star of an Oscar-winning film, and a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. To the amusement of his kids, some people now actually consider him cool. “If you had told me 10 years ago that people were going to be appealing to me for tickets to a hot rock concert through my parents, I would have fallen over,” says his daughter Karenna Gore Schiff, 34, referring to the Live Earth 24-hour extravaganza in July.

What happened to Gore? The story promoted by much of the media today is that we’re looking at a “new Gore,” who has undergone a radical transformation since 2000—he is now passionate and honest and devoted to issues he actually cares about. If only the old Gore could have been the new Gore, the pundits say, history might have been different.

But is it really possible for a person—even a Goreacle—to transform himself so radically? There’s no doubt that some things have changed about Al Gore since 2000. He has demonstrated inner strength, rising from an excruciating defeat that would have crushed many men. Beyond that, what has changed is that he now speaks directly to the public; he has neither the patience nor the need to go through the media.

Eight years ago, in the bastions of the “liberal media” that were supposed to love Gore—The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, CNN—he was variously described as “repellent,” “delusional,” a vote-rigger, a man who “lies like a rug,” “Pinocchio.” Eric Pooley, who covered him for Time magazine, says, “He brought out the creative-writing student in so many reporters.… Everybody kind of let loose on the guy.”

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Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 3:19 pm

Circular credit squeeze

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Kevin Drum has a nice post tracing the causes and effects of the credit squeeze and the 2005 bill that made declaring bankruptcy extremely difficult. Worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Edward Seidensticker, 1921-2007

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James Fallows:

While flipping through newspapers that had piled up through the last two weeks, I spot a small item just before turning the page*: Edward Seidensticker has died. Actuarially this cannot be a huge shock — he was born in 1921 — but it is a loss.

Seidensticker is usually described as one of the great translators of Japanese literature into English. That he certainly was. His translations of Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country and other books were generally credited with helping Kawabata become the first Japanese winner of the Nobel prize for literature. He also did important translations for the man who should have won the prize, Yukio Mishima, including the last volume of Mishima’s unforgettable Sea of Fertility four-volume saga. (And, yes, the Tale of Genji and so on.)

I met Seidensticker half a dozen times for meals and drinks in Tokyo in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was urbane, arch, ever-amused in a cosmopolitan way. That tone comes through in his under-appreciated nonfiction books about Japan itself — histories of Tokyo like Low City, High City and Tokyo Rising, and an archness-incarnate book about living as a foreigner in Tokyo: This Country Japan.

Although he would be the last person to describe himself as typical of anything, he illustrated two larger trends. He learned Japanese to serve as a Marine Corps translator during World War II, part of an important generation of American scholars, businessmen, journalists, and diplomats who became Japanologists thanks to wartime experience. And, to be careful in phrasing a point he did not publicly discuss, after the war many Western homosexuals found the Japan of the Fifties and onward a more comfortable and attractive environment than their homelands at that time.

He was a talented, honorable, and accomplished man.

* This is something that never happens when you’re reading newspapers strictly online. Yes, there are many other means of unexpected discovery on the internet, but they’re different from the same process with actual newspapers. Subject for another day: why online access is indispensable but in some ways worse than what it is replacing.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Throwing Like A Girl

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Good article by James Fallows. It begins:

Most people remember the 1994 baseball season for the way it ended—with a strike rather than a World Series. I keep thinking about the way it began. On opening day, April 4, Bill Clinton went to Cleveland and, like many Presidents before him, threw out a ceremonial first pitch. That same day Hillary Rodham Clinton went to Chicago and, like no First Lady before her, also threw out a first ball, at a Cubs game in Wrigley Field.

The next day photos of the Clintons in action appeared in newspapers around the country. Many papers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, chose the same two photos to run. The one of Bill Clinton showed him wearing an Indians cap and warm-up jacket. The President, throwing lefty, had turned his shoulders sideways to the plate in preparation for delivery. He was bringing the ball forward from behind his head in a clean-looking throwing action as the photo was snapped. Hillary Clinton was pictured wearing a dark jacket, a scarf, and an oversized Cubs hat. In preparation for her throw she was standing directly facing the plate. A right-hander, she had the elbow of her throwing arm pointed out in front of her. Her forearm was tilted back, toward her shoulder. The ball rested on her upturned palm. As the picture was taken, she was in the middle of an action that can only be described as throwing like a girl.

The phrase “throwing like a girl” has become an embattled and offensive one. Feminists smart at its implication that to do something “like a girl” is to do it the wrong way. Recently, on the heels of the O. J. Simpson case, a book appeared in which the phrase was used to help explain why male athletes, especially football players, were involved in so many assaults against women. Having been trained (like most American boys) to dread the accusation of doing anything “like a girl,” athletes were said to grow into the assumption that women were valueless, and natural prey.

I grant the justice of such complaints. I am attuned to the hurt caused by similar broad-brush stereotypes when they apply to groups I belong to—”dancing like a white man,” for instance, or “speaking foreign languages like an American,” or “thinking like a Washingtonian.”

Still, whatever we want to call it, the difference between the two Clintons in what they were doing that day is real, and it is instantly recognizable. And since seeing those photos I have been wondering, Why, exactly, do so many women throw “like a girl”? If the motion were easy to change, presumably a woman as motivated and self-possessed as Hillary Clinton would have changed it. (According to her press secretary, Lisa Caputo, Mrs. Clinton spent the weekend before opening day tossing a ball in the Rose Garden with her husband, for practice.) Presumably, too, the answer to the question cannot be anything quite as simple as, Because they are girls.

A surprising number of people think that there is a structural difference between male and female arms or shoulders—in the famous “rotator cuff,” perhaps—that dictates different throwing motions. “It’s in the shoulder joint,” a well-educated woman told me recently. “They’re hinged differently.” Someday researchers may find evidence to support a biological theory of throwing actions. For now, what you’ll hear if you ask an orthopedist, an anatomist, or (especially) the coach of a women’s softball team is that there is no structural reason why men and women should throw in different ways. This point will be obvious to any male who grew up around girls who liked to play baseball and became good at it. It should be obvious on a larger scale this summer, in broadcasts of the Olympic Games. This year, for the first time, women’s fast-pitch softball teams will compete in the Olympics. Although the pitchers in these games will deliver the ball underhand, viewers will see female shortstops, center fielders, catchers, and so on pegging the ball to one another at speeds few male viewers could match.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Daily life

Record Arctic ice melt

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Global warming is undeniable. From the (conservative) Washington Times:

A warm summer has produced a record melt of the polar ice cap, leaving the Northwest Passage clear enough for a sailboat to pass and prompting nations of the far north to assert claims over the Arctic Ocean seabed.

“The entire length of the Northwest Passage is navigable,” said Trudy Wohlleben, senior ice forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service, a government agency.

Ice usually blocks at least some parts of the passage, she said. “This melt is unprecedented, and it”s speeding up.”

The development threatens to accelerate long-frozen conflicts over security, sovereignty, environmental and economic conflicts among four powers with claims over the Arctic: the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Russia.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Global warming

GAO report on Iraq

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The GAO report summary (PDF file) is now available and is worth reading. Two significant graphs:

18 Benchmarks

Click this and click again for full size. It’s the report on the 18 benchmarks. Solid disk means benchmark has been met, half-solid means partially met, circle means not met. I couldn’t get the 18th on the snapshot: it is “Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi security forces.” Not met.

Civilian deaths

This chart (click thumbnail and click image for full size) is self explanatory: the pattern of attacks.

There’s a good discussion of the report here.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Iraq War

Molly, checking

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Molly, checking

Molly, checking the carrier to see whether another kitty’s arrived.

Molly is getting pretty much fed up with the eyedrops. The vet said to continue them for three days after there’s no more sign of the conjunctivitis, though, so they continue.

The Wife has a carafe with a hinged lid. It has a label on the side that states, quite clearly: “MOLLY: DO NOT TOUCH.” But today Molly stuck her arm in the spout, lifted the lid, stuck her head inside, and sneezed. Clearly she’s starting to strike back at the eyedrop regimen, using the tools at her disposal. I suggested to The Wife that she get a lock for the knife drawer.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Cats, Molly

Useful whisky/whiskey terminology

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Thanks to the Accidental Hedonist:

(NOTE: My spelling of whiskey varies in the text below, for reasons that are specific to the regions. Scotch and Canada typically spell it Whisky while Ireland and America typically spell it Whiskey. I’ve tried to keep the spelling relevant to the areas discussed in the definition, but I probably failed more than not, especially when it comes to the plural. All I ask is that you cut me some slack on this whilst I try to figure out a decent solution for dealing with the militant whiskey/whisky fans who will leap at the opportunity to mention how I misspelled their favorite spirit.)

  • Scotch Whisky: Whisky which has been produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (and other whole grains). The grains have to be processed at said distillery, converted to a fermentable substrate through natural means, and fermented only through the use of yeast. It also has to have been aged in oak casks of a capacity of not more than 700 liters, and matured for three years or longer. Anything less than three years, and it’s not scotch. It also has to be no less than forty percent alcohol by volume (ABV) at the time of bottling.

    There are other specific (and very legal) conditions that must be met in order for a whiskey to be called “Scotch”, but we’ll use the above as the primary definition.

  • Irish Whiskey: Distilled in Ireland from a mash of cereals and matured in oak casks for at least years, and bottled at no less than forty percent (ABV). The Irish typically use barley as their grain of choice.
  • Bourbon: American Whiskey made primarily of corn (at least 51%) and at least 21% of other grains within the mash. Bourbon must then be matured in new, charred, white oak barrels for at least two years. Bottling proof for whiskey must be at least 40% ABV.
  • Tennessee Sour Mash: Tennessee Sour Mash is essentially bourbon with an additionally filtering step put in place. Called the Lincoln County Process, the whiskey is filtered through a thick layer of maple charcoal before it is put into the charred casks for aging.

    According to Charles Maclean, in his book Whisky Tales, Bourbons and ryes also use this sour mash process, but only the Tennessee Whiskeys use it as part of their appellation. I hope to verify this sometime in the near future.

  • Rye: America’s first whiskey, made from a mash of at least 51% rye, and the rest of the mash consisting of corn and barley.
  • Canadian Whisky: Canadian Whisky is almost always a blend (which I define below). Typically the blend is dependent upon rye whisky, but this will vary from producer to producer. The laws surrounding Canadian whisky are less stringent than those found surrouding Scotch and Bourbons, but there is a three year maturation rule.
  • Corn Whiskey: Whiskey made from a mash containing a mixture of at least 80% corn. There are no aging requirements for corn whiskey.

Within the above categories there are often other subcategories that have their own definitions that need explaining.

  • Malt Whisky/Malt Whiskey: A whiskey/whisky made from a mash comprised completely from a single type of malted grain. Barley is the best known malt whiskey, at least world wide, but ryes also are known.
  • Single Malt Whiskey: A whiskey/whisky which is distilled at a single distillery, and is made completely from a single type of malted grain
  • Grain Whiskey: Whiskey made from a combination of grains other than barley, or other than those mashes used in bourbons and ryes. Typically speaking, these whiskeys are closer to pure alcohol than malted whiskeys, and rarely have maturation requirements. Grain whiskeys are often used in blends.
  • Blended Whisky/Whiskey:A blended whiskey is the product of blending different types of whiskeys. It is generally the product of mixing one or more single malt whiskeys with other grain whiskeys or neutral grain spirits.

    There are two basic reasons that blends are produced:
    1) Economic: Blended whiskeys can be cheaper to produce and the cost savings can be passed on to the consumer.
    2) Standardization: While Single Malt Whiskeys can vary from year to year (and from age to age), a decent blender can replicate a specific taste from the variety of whiskeys available to them, and produce a similar product over the years.

  • Pure Malt Whisky: A blend of malt whiskies.
  • Vatted Malt Whisky: The same as pure malt whisky.
  • Single Cask: Bottled from a single cask, rather than from a mix of casks (which is the standard).
  • Non Chill Filtered: Typically a whiskey/whisky’s temperature is reduced to zero degrees C and pushed through several filters prior to bottling. Non Chill filtered means that this process was avoided, often to keep the roughness of the whiskey/whisky intact.
  • Cask Strength/Natural Strength: Implies that the whisky/whiskey comes straight from the cask and it’s alcohol content not been intentionally reduced. The ABV rate of these are typically higher than the standard 40% ABV.
  • Wood-Finished/Double Casked: The whiskey has been matured in one cask, and the re-casked and re-racked for the final months of maturation.
  • Age: In a non-blend, this is the amount of time the whiskey/whisky has matured in a cask. In a blend, this is the age of the youngest spirit found within.
  • Pot Still Whiskey: Whiskey made in the older tradition of the pot still as opposed to the more popular (and more cost-efficient) column still.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 11:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

A conservative’s views of the Bush Administration

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Jack Goldsmith has impeccable conservative credentials. He’s a conservative’s conservative. He is not in any degree a liberal. Here’s a profile of him:

In the fall of 2003, Jack L. Goldsmith was widely considered one of the brightest stars in the conservative legal firmament. A 40-year-old law professor at the University of Chicago, Goldsmith had established himself, with his friend and fellow law professor John Yoo, as a leading proponent of the view that international standards of human rights should not apply in cases before U.S. courts. In recognition of their prominence, Goldsmith and Yoo had been anointed the “New Sovereigntists” by the journal Foreign Affairs.

Goldsmith had been hired the year before as a legal adviser to the general counsel of the Defense Department, William J. Haynes II. While at the Pentagon, Goldsmith wrote a memo for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warning that prosecutors from the International Criminal Court might indict American officials for their actions in the war on terror. Goldsmith described this threat as “the judicialization of international politics.” No one was surprised when he was hired in October 2003 to head the Office of Legal Counsel, the division of the Justice Department that advises the president on the limits of executive power. Immediately, the job put him at the center of critical debates within the Bush administration about its continuing response to 9/11 — debates about coercive interrogation, secret surveillance and the detention and trial of enemy combatants.

Nine months later, in June 2004, Goldsmith resigned. Although he refused to discuss his resignation at the time, he had led a small group of administration lawyers in a behind-the-scenes revolt against what he considered the constitutional excesses of the legal policies embraced by his White House superiors in the war on terror. During his first weeks on the job, Goldsmith had discovered that the Office of Legal Counsel had written two legal opinions — both drafted by Goldsmith’s friend Yoo, who served as a deputy in the office — about the authority of the executive branch to conduct coercive interrogations. Goldsmith considered these opinions, now known as the “torture memos,” to be tendentious, overly broad and legally flawed, and he fought to change them. He also found himself challenging the White House on a variety of other issues, ranging from surveillance to the trial of suspected terrorists. His efforts succeeded in bringing the Bush administration somewhat closer to what Goldsmith considered the rule of law — although at considerable cost to Goldsmith himself. By the end of his tenure, he was worn out. “I was disgusted with the whole process and fed up and exhausted,” he told me recently.

It’s a long article, and it’s worth reading. I repeat: this is a conservative, not some liberal taking potshots. You conservative readers will be especially interested, I should think. Read the article.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 11:42 am

Border police scandal

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I earlier linked to a post by Glenn Greenwald, analyzing a statement by Thomas Sowell, who wrote:

We all believe that people are innocent until proven guilty. Some on the left believe that they are innocent even after being proven guilty.

Greenwald pointed out the various instances of the right believing people are innocent even after they’ve been proved guilty (e.g., Scooter Libby), and (worse) believing innocent people are guilty even without proof (the various people incarcerated and kept incommunicado without charges and without trial).

Another interesting case has surfaced: two rogue Border Patrol agents convicted in Federal court. The story is well worth reading. From the story:

How did Ramos and Compean get reinvented as right-wing heroes? The answer lies in the way Americans get their information, from a fragmented news media that makes it easier than ever to tune out opposing views and inconvenient truths. When people seek “facts” only from sources with which they agree, it’s possible for demonstrable untruths to enter the narrative and remain there unchallenged. The ballad of Ramos and Compean is a story that one side of America’s polarized culture has gotten all wrong and that much of the other side — and the rest of the country — has never even heard.

Federal prosecutions of law enforcement agents are not undertaken lightly. “No prosecutor ever wants to be in a position of prosecuting a cop or a federal agent,” says Johnny Sutton, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, whose office prosecuted Ramos and Compean. “They’re our co-workers, they’re our friends, we represent them in court … But when one steps over the line and commits a serious crime, it’s very important that they be held accountable … [and] most agents would say what these guys did was outrageous.”

Prosecutors in Sutton’s office considered the conduct of Ramos and Compean outrageous enough that the two men were charged with seven and nine counts, respectively. Both were charged with assault with intent to commit murder. At trial, government prosecutors presented a case, supported by eyewitness testimony, that alleged the following: On Feb. 17, 2005, Aldrete-Davila led Border Patrol agents on a high-speed car chase that ended at a ditch about 120 yards from Mexico. Aldrete-Davila abandoned a van with 743 pounds of marijuana inside and made a dash for the border. Compean, on foot, intercepted Aldrete-Davila, who put his hands in the air to surrender.

At that point, according to trial testimony, Compean tried to hit Aldrete-Davila with the butt of his shotgun, missed, and fell into the 11-foot-deep ditch. Aldrete-Davila took off running. Compean climbed out of the ditch, shot at him 14 times and missed. Ramos, who had watched Compean fall, then fired once. The bullet entered Aldrete-Davila’s left buttock, severed his urethra and came to rest in his right thigh. He fell down, but got back up, escaping across the Rio Grande into Mexico. The two agents then covered up the incident. Compean hid some of the shell casings and asked a third agent returning to the scene later that day to dispose of the rest. Neither Ramos nor Compean ever reported the shooting. They were arrested a month later, and then only because America’s border with Mexico is like a very long and skinny small town. Aldrete-Davila’s mother is friends with the mother-in-law of Rene Sanchez, a Border Patrol agent in Arizona. After hearing about the incident from his mother-in-law, Sanchez sent a report to the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, which then dispatched a special agent to Texas to investigate.

At trial in the federal courthouse in El Paso, Border Patrol agents from the Fabens station took the stand to testify against Ramos and Compean. Fellow agents, including one who had observed the shooting, contradicted Compean’s story about where he was and how he was positioned when he fired his weapon. The agent who had helped Compean hide shell casings admitted it under oath. Prosecutors showed that Compean had repeatedly changed his story about the shooting and that it didn’t match Ramos’ account. They were also able to show that although Compean had discussed the shooting with other agents after it happened, it wasn’t until his arrest that he began claiming that Aldrete-Davila had had a gun.

The prosecution’s version of events was convincing enough for the jury, in March 2006, to find Ramos and Compean guilty of all but assault with intent to commit murder. Most media coverage of the case was local, and it comported with the jury’s verdict: a bad shooting, a coverup and damning testimony from fellow agents that led to an uncontroversial conviction. Seven months later, a judge sentenced Ramos and Compean to 11 and 12 years in prison, respectively.

But by the time of their sentencing, the right wing had discovered the agents and begun constructing a new narrative. Ramos and Compean’s newfound supporters soon settled on a radically different version of the shooting, cobbled together from speculation, rumors, misstatements of fact and various unproven assertions cherry-picked from the case the defense presented at trial.

Much more at the link, tracing how two convicted criminals became heroes of the Right.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 11:13 am

Posted in GOP, Government, Media

Outing gay hypocrital politicians

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I’m not sure myself about the morality of this: a blogger in Washington DC outs gay politicians who take strongly anti-gay positions. Closeted gay politicians who don’t take anti-gay positions are left in peace. He says it’s the hypocrisy that he’s attacking. From the story:

… In Rogers’s mind, if you’re against gay rights in your public life and you live a secret homosexual life, all bets are off.

In 2004, one of the first public officials he targeted was then-Virginia congressman Ed Schrock because of his voting record on such issues as gays in the military, same-sex marriage and gay adoption. In 2000, for instance, Schrock told the Virginian-Pilot: “You’re in the showers with them, you’re in the bunk room with them, you’re in staterooms with them.” Schrock decided not to run for reelection because of the rumors.

In 2005, Rogers blogged about Mark Foley, months before his inappropriate instant-messages to male congressional pages became public and he was forced to resign. The former Florida congressman had a varied record, sometimes voting in favor of gay rights, but at one point voting against adoption by same-sex couples.

And last October, he says, he targeted Craig — months before an undercover sex sting in a Minneapolis airport men’s room, and before the Idaho Statesman started its months-long investigation. Two years earlier, Rogers notes, the three-term senator had voted for the failed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

“Hypocrisy,” Rogers sneers, “plain, hate-filled hypocrisy.”

… “I write about closeted people whose records are anti-gay,” he says. “If you’re a closeted Democrat or Republican and you don’t bash gays or vote against gay rights to gain political points, I won’t out you.”

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 11:01 am

Fact-checking the candidates

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An initiative we can all, across the political spectrum, embrace: fact-checking the presidential candidates. The St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly are cooperating in the launch and operation of a new Web site, PolitiFact.com, devoted to following the presidential campaign and reporting on the factual accuracy of candidates’ statements. This should be fun.

Romenesko:

The Poynter-owned St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly are dedicating a team of reporters and researchers to examine the rhetoric of presidential candidates and then make a call: Is the claim true or not? “You might think such work would be standard journalistic fare,” writes Times executive editor Neil Brown. “But many news organizations can spend less money and get less grief if their political reporting sticks to stenography and puffery.”

From the story making the announcement:

… Sorting out the “truth” may seem a treacherous endeavor in such a politically polarized time. But we believe our journalists can play a greater role as an honest broker for voters bewildered by the barrage of campaign talk.So in a move rare for a news organization, we’re dedicating a team of reporters and researchers to meticulously examine the rhetoric of candidates and their partisans, and then make a call: Is the claim true or not?

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Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 9:59 am

Straining at .50BMG, swallowing 20mm

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Last night I was thinking about Dan’s comment in an earlier post. He commented on my remark about restricting sale of .50BMG sniper rifles, and asked why do it. I suddenly remembered the 20mm Lahti Antitank Rifle we used to have…

Lahti

Lahti 2

The photos above, from here and here (and a better photo here), don’t show the one we had, but it was much the same. Wikipedia:

The Lahti L-39 20 mm Anti-Tank Cannon is a Finnish anti-tank rifle used during the Second World War. It had a semi-automatic action and a large magazine. As a result of its large and powerful ammunition the gun had considerable recoil (the perceived recoil, when firing the gun correctly, was actually very tolerable [1]), and its size made portability difficult, and it also gained itself the nickname “Norsupyssy” (“Elephant Gun“), and as tanks developed armour too thick to be penetrated by even this large, powerful rifle, its uses switched to fields such as long range sniping, tank harassment and an improvised anti-aircraft weapon.

The rifles in the photos above are resting on snow skids, but the bipod swings down under that to give a more stable platform. The barrel is encased in a wooden sleeve, pierced with holes, presumably so the firing team could readily handle it without having hands burned when it was time to get out of Dodge after firing several rounds.

The story is this:

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Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 9:41 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Outlook 2007 bug

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So it goes. Here’s how to see it: Right-click the bar above the entries in the Inbox view. Click “Customize current view” and then click “Fields”.

You can now select which fields appear in the current view and specify the order of appearance—except for one field. If “Flag status” is in the view, it will always appear at the extreme right, regardless of how you place it in the list of fields in the view.

Other fields don’t have this problem, and “Flag status” didn’t have this problem in Outlook 2003. I did ask for help, and told that the situation is “by design,” which is apparently a new term for “bug.”

No idea when the fix will come, but I really like Flag status at the left, as I had it in Outlook 2003.

Those using Open Office can now chortle till coffee comes out their nose. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 8:52 am

Posted in Software

Brush works fine

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I used the cleaned Omega brush today, with Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap. No lather problems, and I lathered on my face as usual. The brush is now a little larger than I’m used to, but it did a fine job.

I used a blue Lady Gillette TTO razor with a brand new Treet Black Beauty. I noticed for the first time the nice design of the Treet packaging: the blade is double wrapped, but when you open the outer wrapper, if you just continue the unwrapping, it also removes the inner wrapper, since the two are attached by a spot of glue. Cute.

Very fine and smooth shave. And I finally did use the Barbasol aftershave. Great start to a new day.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2007 at 8:26 am

Posted in Shaving

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